Speaking peace to people often seems to be a lost cause. First, many people don’t want peace. Actually, many people don’t want peace. Oh, they want peace from war (most). That often is the most common form of “peace” we use in everyday language. There is another one that is often used in Christian circles, usually used in the context of “being at peace.” Contented trust may be more accurate, but not always. However, peace is far more than no war.
In Psalm 85:8 it is the Hebrew word shalom. The above English uses of peace fit into shalom. Shalom is far broader than that. Shalom includes: peace, well, peaceably, welfare, prosperity, safe, health, peaceable, completeness, soundness (in body), quiet, tranquillity, contentment, friendship, of human relationships with God especially in covenant relationship, peace (from war). Many of the protests over the last year (and more) there were signs and shouted words of, “no justice, no peace.” There is Truth in that. Yet, because of the context where these words are spoken peace becomes something far less. The implication is that there will be protests (i.e., disruption, anger, more protests) until justice is done. When justice is done, there will be peace (i.e., no disruption, no anger, no protests).
Except, for Christians and their Jewish “relatives”, the better phrasing should probably be, “know justice; know peace.” Or in more Godly language, “know justice; know shalom.” This is not a small distinction.
Shalom implies a community unified around God (and often not our pet issues), where harmony and care for one another prevails. As alluded to in the opening paragraph, people often don’t want it. In particular, this is about getting our way and our stuff. Capitalism, Marxism, (Marxism’s altered sibling) Communism, bartering all involve people. Therefore, any of them have issues. There is no perfect economy.
Abuse and oppression within an economy and community are definitely in contrast to shalom. It is also contrary to God’s intent.
Amos’ words are an attack on the rich and powerful. They are on an attack on those who are overly comfortable and reliant upon the desecration of the image of God in the poor. There are varying arguments one could have regarding the differences of today and in Amos’ time and what that means in regard to oppression and abuse. It’s that very argument that is the problem.
In a weekly group that discusses one of the devotionals over the previous week, one of the big discussion points has been the concept of justice. What justice is…is nebulous. We think we know what justice is (and in some circumstances we do). However, what justice is and how it works changes as the group grows larger. Justice between individuals is relatively simple (not easy). When one increases the number of people justice is no longer that way. Then, especially in the context of seeking justice for past harms, justice may actually be diminished into vengeance.
Thus, when we seek justice, first we must seek shalom.
- How does shalom affect justice? Why is shalom the critical missing factor in our modern conversations about justice?
- How and why is “know” an important part of both shalom and peace?
Lord, let shalom rest inside us and fill us. May we be instruments of your shalom in the world. Amen.